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The Bridge


view of Sydney Harbour Bridge cropped

view of Sydney Harbour Bridge cropped

I’ve done a lot of study over the years about Catholicism and some soul searching. One of the key principles that I have grown to love is the idea that Jesus came as a bridge to breach the gap between God and man that occurred when original sin corrupted the world.

What if we are also sent to be a bridge to others when there is a gap between each other based on the idea that God sent Jesus to be a bridge for us? It is a beautiful concept that I have seen in action throughout my life. Most recently it has been through the death of my brother Kevin.

Kevin was the last child born from the marriage of Alice Albano and Edward Koval. His parents divorced and Alice married my father, Clement Miller. To the older 4 siblings he was their baby brother but to me and my two older sisters, Judy and Margaret, he was our big brother. Our family dynamic wasn’t the best. The older Koval children were pretty much out of the house when I was born. Only Roberta and Kevin were the ones that I got to know before they moved out.

I had a pretty special connection with Kevin. I guess it is due to the fact that when we moved to Leesville, we roomed together until he moved out. I know I have written about how jealous I would get over his girlfriends until my mom sat me down explaining the fact that I couldn’t marry him because he was my brother. If I really loved him, I would have to let him go since he would have to do the same with me some day.

The years went by and he married Lori. I was the flower girl at the wedding. I was happy for them but sort of jealous. I know how silly that might sound but I thought I would never find anyone as charming or special as Kevin to call my own. More years went by. We drifted apart as we were bound to do. We all have our journeys to make. I tried to stay in contact. Some years were good and others weren’t the best when it came to keeping the connection alive. Kevin’s marriage to Lori failed. I didn’t even realize it had happened until my mother informed me. I was married too and my own marriage failed. Kevin felt broken I am pretty sure because I knew how much he loved Lori. I ended my own marriage but I was not broken due to it. I just knew I couldn’t continue living a lie or existing in a marriage that didn’t produce anything nourishing to myself.

To my great surprise I found my soul mate when I least expected to do it. I contacted my sister, Aggie, to let her know about something. I found out that my brother Kevin was staying with her due to an injury to his leg. Our connection was ignited again for a little while. I tried emailing him or staying in contact through MySpace but that sort of dwindled out too. I know he was quite excited about meeting someone online. I tried teeing up a time to meet up when I went over for my sister Judy’s 40th birthday but it never came through. Years went by again. In 2012 I let family know that I was returning again for a visit. A mini-family reunion ended up happening that June but one important person wasn’t there. I tried messaging him through an email but no response. I believe it was my nephew Dan who finally got a hold of him so we spoke on the phone. It was nice but not as good as actually holding him. It was through this phone call that I connected with his love, Lisa. I vowed to myself never to let go again of my brother.

In all the years we were apart, I always dreamed of hugging him tight. Hearing his voice on the phone was great but nothing can compare to actually being in the presence of the one you love. I always thought that I would get to hold him again but it wasn’t meant to be. May 24th our family got together again just as it did in 2012. The one thing that I always wanted finally came true. We were all together but Kevin was in an urn. I got to finally meet Lisa but it was a bittersweet moment. All the hours of talking were great. The most important person in our lives was gone. We all loved him and I know he loved us too.

The bridge in my family is gone but not forgotten. He gave us Lisa and Sandy. He wanted us to be there for each other. In some ways it is working but in other ways it is a massive fail. Lisa could have easily not told us about Kevin’s illness and passing. She did the best that she could. In her own way Lisa is a bridge to me and vice versa.

In some ways my own mother was a bridge to my father’s sisters when he was sick and dying. I know he had asked my mom not to let them know but she convinced him otherwise. My father’s death in some ways mended some wrongs that occurred between my mother and his sisters. I am not sure why death holds such power over us. If anything I am learning that life is precious. We never know when our last day might be so we had better make the most out of what we have. We need to cherish each other.

I am going to take the time and try to be a bridge to others like the great examples I have been given before. Have you ever been a bridge for others?

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Cling To Me


You have no strength.

Everything has got you down

and in the end you can’t think of how you are going to make it round.

Do me a favor if you please

And sweet darling just cling to me

cause one day and it might be soon

I’ll be the one to cling to you.

Feels like this rain will never end

Too much pain to deal with 

But sweet darling just believe 

that in the end you can cling to me

cause one day and it might be soon

I’ll be the one to cling to you.

You may feel as if you have no hope

and you are at the end of your rope

there’s nothing else you can do to cope

But I beg you to just cling to me

cause one day and it might be soon

I’ll be the one to cling to you.

 

For those who are dealing with loss and feel there is no hope don’t give up. Hold on and know in the end what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger! Lisa this is for you!

Hero


He is our hero.
We are two sides of a coin.
You are his lover, his partner in life.
I am his sister who loves & wonders though distance is great.
He is so charming.
He loves so distinctly yet completely.
We both adore him.
Some may say love is weakness
But we know love is strength .
Love endures
Love heals
Love in every form can be a hero.
Our hero is love.
Love sustains us.
Love remains to comfort us when all else fails.

This poem was inspired by my brother Kevin, his loving wife, Lisa & of course my feelings about him.

Monthly Peace Challenge: Love Thy Enemy


It’s that time of the month again. It used to be so dang easy for me to meet these challenges that Kozo Hattori put out but as 2013 comes closer to an end, he has ramped up the challenge in the best possible ways. I don’t know how he does it, but I am just grateful that I have found him. He inspires me and really gets me thinking. This month’s challenge though he wants us to write about loving thy enemy.

I have two things to share with you. Please bare in mind that I do like to write poetry/songs. I was trying to compose music to go with the song I have written but time is not on my side and I am wasting precious time trying to do it. My songs often just come to me as melody and words. I can hear it so clearly in my mind. You will have to forgive me for singing a capella but I am not a gifted pianist yet.

There is a story I must share with you to explain about my song which I have entitled  “Leads Back To You”. It’s about two young girls about to reach puberty. This story is part of my life and has helped to form me. When I first met Jenny Schultz, I was riding the school bus to school. Jenny and her brother, Johnny, lived further down Vernon Lake Road in a trailer park not far from Vernon Lake Spillway which was at the end of Vernon Lake Road. I don’t know why we at first didn’t like each other. She would get on the bus snarl in my direction with a most disagreeable glare and bark at Judy and myself. I think I was in year 5 and she was year 6. Judy was in year 8 and always looked after me because that is what my older sister always does when it comes to me.

Everybody always loved sitting on the very back seat of the bus. It was a huge competition to get back there before it got taken. Maybe it was the fact that Judy and I often were sitting on the back seat that got under Jenny and Johnny’s skin so much. We did live closer to the beginning of the road then the Shultzes in the morning pick up. The trailer park was at the end of Vernon Lake Road. It really doesn’t matter what it was that put us against each other but the fact is, some how we became friends.

They just moved to Vernon Lake Road and starting riding Bus 4 when this animosity between us started.  I just know when I was in the sixth grade, I actually decided to try to change the mood between us. It was a hot day. The bus was getting pretty overcrowded by the time it came to pick me up at Vernon Elementary. Johnny had been held back the year before. We were never in the same class but I was aware that the Shultzes didn’t like us Miller girls very much. On this hot day with the bus overcrowded, I moved over so that Jenny could have a seat. She looked exhausted and her school bag weighed her down. She was hesitant at first but the load of what she was carrying must have over took her reservation because she accepted the offer to sit down.

I tentatively introduced myself and she looked at me stunned. I offered my hand to shake and she refused. When my sister noticed that Jenny was sitting beside me, she thought I was insane. Judy was sitting with Nancy and Tammy if I recall and couldn’t believe that I was trying to make friends with her. We didn’t say very much to each other but a seed had been planted.

A couple of days later, Judy was sick and I got one of the back seats. I waved to Jenny when she got on and motioned for her to come join me. We began a friendship then. I learned about her and her brother. He had a learning disability and she had a kidney condition that often made her sick. She was going to dialysis often. Kids on the bus thought we were an odd pair.

Assumptions are often the things that lead to distrust and fear but if we confront the fear and are brave enough to take a risk, to let someone in, it will pay off big time. Jenny and I lost contact ages ago but I often think of her. She helped me be a better person. She helped me break out of my shyness shell. I am so glad that I decided to break the ice because I discovered a really wonderful friend.

She moved from Vernon Lake Road and ended up staying with a lady from a church that she attended. She married the lady’s son when she was 15 and had a baby. They moved to Alexandria or Pineville but I will never forget Jenny. Jenny is the inspiration for the song I wrote for this peace challenge.

I would like to thank my husband, Adam, for editing the song for me which I recorded this afternoon.  He’s another great blessing in my life! I will have to rerecord this to a better job but I really wanted to put it out there in time for the month of November.

Related articles:

http://everydaygurus.com/2013/10/31/monthly-peace-challenge-love-thy-enemy/

http://everydaygurus.com/2013/11/27/letter-to-my-enemy-within/

Lenny, Adam’s Guide Dog


Lenny relaxing in the kitchen in Werrington
This blog will express my opinions on Lenny, Adam’s guide dog because that is all I can do. I can speculate on Adam’s feelings but this blog is going to reflect my take on the relationship that I see developing between Adam and his dog. I also have an effect on the relationship but I try to minimize myself as much as I can but for me it’s sort of hard to do because I love them both so very much.

In my blog about Mitch, I credit him for Adam’s change of heart with the attitude about him getting his own guide dog. My approach to animals and Adam’s approach are two different things. I am much more a feelly touchy sort of person where Adam can be affectionate but he can also be a lot more detached. I am the one who is on the ground loving the big slobbery licks that dogs give so freely. Adam is just not that sort of person. He doesn’t like being licked by anything or anyone.

Adam’s decision to get a guide dog was not taken lightly. He isn’t the sort of fellow who does things by the seat of his pants for the most part. He likes order much more than I do. He contacted Guide Dogs NSW in 2007. He was assessed. I got to observe the whole process when the Guide Dog Trainer came out. It was quite funny seeing Adam interacting with the trainer taking him for a walk with a dog harness up to Werrington station pretending to be a dog (the trainer) while Adam was the handler. The trainer told Adam that they would be in contact once they found a suitable dog for him. Later on I think it was in July, Adam was contacted that a dog was found for him. The dog then ended up injurying itself before they were matched so Adam was back on the waiting list. In October or September we drove out to Glossodia for the Guide Dog Open Day, it was then that we got a glimpse at a dog that they hoped would be matched with Adam. In November, Adam went to Richmond to train with Rinni, the guide dog chosen for him. They were together for training in Richmond for 3 weeks. I drove to visit because Richmond wasn’t that far from Werrington where we lived. I was told not to give too much eye contact or attention to Rinni. After the 3 weeks intense training that the pair received, they came to our house. For another 3 weeks, Adam and Rinni did training to get to work and other places that Adam needed to get to. I observed what happened. Adam was getting up ridiculously early to try to toilet Rinni so that they would get to his work on time. Rinni was a stubborn dog. He could also be mean to Mitch. We were not allowed to let the two dogs interact alone in case Rinni got hurt during free runs. I wasn’t sure why they thought Rinni would get hurt when Rinni was the one holding down Mitch making him cry during the free runs.The day Rinni was to graduate and become Adam’s guide dog, Rinni was his stubborn self, he pooed in harness in the middle of Central Station not indicating that he need to go after Adam had tried leash relieving him for half an hour before they went into the station. At this point, Adam was very frustrated. He expressed his frustration to the trainer. He thought that having a guide dog was supposed to offer a sense of freedom not chain him down in unrealistic tolieting behaviors that made him have to get up two hours earlier just to try to get the dog to poo in hopes that Adam could make it to the train station or work without the dog doing it in harness. Adam told the trainer it was unacceptable and he’d rather not have a guide dog if that was the case for him. He was better off with the cane. Guide dogs reassured Adam they would make it right so Christmas 2007 it was just Adam, me, and Mitch.

Fast forward to July 2008, Adam and I just returned from our trip to Vanuatu. There was another guide dog that was trained especially for Adam by one of the trainers who had witnessed all the work Adam had done with Rinni. Adam and I both were skeptical about this dog but the man who trained Leonard tailored him for Adam. When we met Leonard, We knew it might work because within 5 minutes of introducing Lenny to Mitch, the trainer left the two to play in the backyard while he returned to his car to get more things.

Lenny is such a joy compared to Rinni. He is very eager to please. He loves working with Adam. Adam can even touch Lenny while leash relieving him to try to figure out which thing Lenny is doing. If Adam tried to do that with Rinni, Rinni would refuse to go about what he was doing. Lenny is excited when he sees Adam go to the hall stand to get the lead as well as the harness. He even tries to help put the harness on himself.

One of the nicest things with Lenny was that they trained at home. I got to go with them every time they went out to train. I would observe the lessons absorbing as much as I could to try to aid Lenny and Adam’s partnership. The trainers were forever telling Adam to praise Lenny vocally. It was wonderful watching the two of them bond as well as Mitch and Lenny bond.

Lenny trialing a water harness with Adam at Hyams Beach

Lenny trialing a water harness with Adam at Hyams Beach

I have to tell myself not to make too much eye contact with Lenny or love on him too much because I don’t want to interfere with their working relationship. I often wonder if I have infected my love into Lenny. I see how Lenny reacts when he sees me coming towards them when I am picking them up some place or meeting up with them in town. It’s a real chore for Adam to get Lenny back on task if I have shown up or he has to leave me.
I will not pet Lenny while in harness for the most part. I admit when no one is looking, I have slipped which I mustn’t do but it’s only when he’s in the boot of the jeep or we are at home.

It wasn’t long after Adam and Lenny bonded we discovered that Lenny had irritable bowel syndrome. He just could not put on weight. Guide Dogs helped Adam with the medication that Lenny needs. He has to eat special food which all of our dogs eat. We thought he might have to be retired but it was not the case. Lenny is medicated for life but he is an eager helper for Adam always full of love and ready to go for walks whether it be in harness or out of harness.

CloseupAdamandboys In this picture, you can’t tell that Adam is blind. He just looks like a man walking two labs down Mullaway beach. Mitch is on the right and Lenny on the left. Guide dogs always are on the left.

Lenny is dog distracted when working at times. It stems back to when he was attacked by a stray dog. Adam says he has “Bush Syndrome”. He has to get in first before the other dog tries to attack. Guide dogs has worked with them but it’s still not quite resolved. Lenny has had clicker training. One guide dog instructor was about to teach the method to Adam but she had to go down to Sydney to help with training other dogs because NSW is short on instructors. Maybe one day, it will all be worked out.

I am really glad that Adam made the decision to get a guide dog. I love Lenny but know he’s Adam’s dog. I will play with him but think of him strictly as Adam’s dog. I do shower him with affection but try to encourage him to seek Adam out. Mitch and Grady gets heaps of loving from me. I feel sort of bad for Lenny when he comes up wanting me to love on him too. I do a little bit but not to the extent that I do with the other two.

It’s wonderful watching Grady and Mitch get excited when they see them coming down the road and up the deck to the front door. They are a happy pack. I am really blessed to see the bond develop between Mitch, Lenny, Grady, Adam, and myself.

Mitch is our dog, Lenny is Adam’s dog, and Grady is my dog. I like to think of Lenny being partly owned by me but that’s not really realistic. He is part of my family unit though. Adam only tolerates Grady because I wanted him. Mitch though, is our dog together. Lenny is definitely Adam’s guide dog. He helps my man go places. It’s a privilege to watch them grow in their working relationship. I am glad to be a part of this wonderful relationship. I am happy to teach them new places. I get a real sense of accomplishment when I do something like that. If I can help those two work together without getting Guide Dogs in, I think I have helped. We do call Guide Dogs if I am not sure of a route but for the most part, I can do just as well as a guide dog instructor.

Adam is a great cane user. His independence is remarkable. His speed with Lenny is awesome. I practically feel like I am jogging to keep up when they know where they are going or I have to catch up with them. Lenny’s trainers did great work for Adam. They really selected a wonderful dog who helps Adam with his mobility.

It just goes to show, you can’t keep a good man or dog down for long! Thanks for stopping by and reading! Have a great day!